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Europe

Poland's passport redesign sparks diplomatic row

Poland wants to redesign its passport, and the country's citizens have some say in choosing the images it contains. But two of the options do not belong to Poland anymore, sparking a diplomatic row with its neighbors.

Poland's Interior Ministry has set up a webpage for Poles to vote on a new passport design. They can choose from six options, which include famous Polish personalities, medals and monuments. All the design options are important to Poland's past, but two no longer are located within the country's present borders.

A choice beyond borders

The passport redesign is in connection with celebrations for Poland's 100th anniversary of independence in 2018. At the end of the 18th century, Poland was divided among Prussia, Russia and Austria, and for 123 years - until the end of the First World War -  it ceased to exist as an independent state.

The Gate of Dawn in Vilnius (Imago/Rainer Weisflog)

The Gate of Dawn is located in the capital of Lithuania, Vilnius

The top six choices will be combined with another 13 already chosen by an expert panel. Of these, Ukraine and Lithuania are contesting, respectively, two: That of the Defenders of Lviv Cemetery - now in Ukraine - and the Gate of Dawn in Vilnius, now the Lithuanian capital.

The Gate includes a Madonna painting, Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn, commissioned during the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth of the 16th to 18th centuries. The cemetery in Lviv, called Lemberg until 1918, is the burial site for hundreds of young Polish fighters who defended the city for Poland during the Polish-Ukrainian War in 1918-1919.

Historical appeal

The two historical sites were part of Poland until the Second World War, then became part of the Soviet Union. They went to Lithuania and Ukraine following the collapse of the USSR in 1991, and now the two governments are protesting Poland's inclusion of their images in the new passport.

The Defenders of Lviv Cemetary (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/A. Widak)

The Defenders of Lviv Cemetary is a burial place for Poles who died in the Polish-Ukrainian War

Though both locations are frequently visited by Polish tourists, neither is performing particularly well in the Interior Ministry's online vote for the passport design: The gate in Vilnius is in eighth place, while the cemetery in Lviv is in 12th.

The online vote is "only consultative in character," according to the Interior Ministry. It will make a decision on the new passport design in September.

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